Great expectations should be a two-way street

An opinion piece discussing FortisBC's new plan for an inclining block rate.

So FortisBC is going to reward us if we use less electricity and penalize us if we use more. By that standard I can only assume the massive province-wide PowerSmart program never generated the savings it was intended to do.

Or am I wrong?

Perhaps the constant refrain of saving energy was working to the point that Fortis wasn’t seeing the profits it normally would. After all, people were turning off lights, turning down furnaces and switching to more energy-efficient appliances.

Unfortunately that hasn’t been doing the trick apparently. Fortis is now set to initiate an inclining block rate in July where a two-tiered billing system will offer a lower rate to frugal electricity users and a higher rate to electricity hogs.

Wasn’t the intention of all the energy-saving programs designed to encourage people to cut electrical use and therefore save money to begin with?

Perhaps you’ve already made changes to save energy but it might not be enough in the eyes of the Fortis billing department.

In this day and age it’s hard to believe a large corporation does anything simply out of the goodness of its heart. FortisBC is in the business of selling electricity so to make the business work it has to make money.

Which brings us back to the inclining block rate. Is it really designed to cut use, thereby cutting profits, or simply to grab a bigger piece of the consumer’s pie?

Have a big Christmas dinner and turn the stove on for hours and Fortis will be hitting you with a bigger bill. Order takeout on Christmas Day and keep the lights off and you’ll save a few bucks.

Which will you do?

Hopefully, this new policy becomes a two-way street and not simply an “our way or the highway,” for its customers.

Consider if Fortis finds it too costly to trim all the branches along its power line. Then a windstorm knocks over those branches and we’re left without power.

What kind of penalty should Fortis pay to its customers for not holding up its end of the contract?

It’s their job to keep the lines clear and the electricity flowing just like they expect us to do our job and reduce our consumption.

We don’t do our part and they hit you with a bigger bill. If they don’t do their part then they should be the ones paying.

Wouldn’t it be great if those same rules applied to other entities?

If what companies expected from us was rewarded with those same expectations of them?

Cable companies charge us a monthly fee but never offer a rebate if the cable goes out for a day. They charge us for 24-hours of service. If it falls under that time frame then there should be some type of discount to the consumer.

The phone company also expects you to pay your bills on time but is in certainly no rush to answer your call when service is disrupted. Those lost minutes on hold should be recouped by extra minutes on a calling card.

The same goes for Internet service. We pay for its high-speed availability at a moment’s notice but sometimes that simply isn’t the case. No rebate coming if they don’t meet their commitment as promised.

If companies want us to be frugal, vigilant and responsible, then the same should be asked of them.

The same rules should apply to our government.

The tax department wants us to pay our taxes on time or face a penalty.

Shouldn’t there be some savings for the taxpayer when the government-contracted road crews fail to clear roads in a safe and timely fashion? After all if we go over our deadline and wait until summer to pay our taxes, no doubt we will be charged interest. But if the highway crew only gets to your road by summer, well too bad for you.

What about the needless waste of money at the federal level? If there’s any admission from the Conservatives that they over-spent on the G8 meetings, then we should all see a cheque in the mail soon.

Consumers have the power to deal with small, local businesses, which don’t hold up their end of the bargain.

Have bad meal or service at restaurant? Then don’t go back.

An expensive repair at a garage? Then look elsewhere.

However, our hands are tied when it comes to dealing with giant monopolies like FortisBC, ICBC or the government, which is run like a monolithic corporation most of the time.

They call the shots and we all we can do is answer the call.


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